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PD Editorial: The dangers of ignoring San Jose mayor

  • Mayor Chuck Reed and his wife, Paula, arrive at an election night party in June 2012 to celebrate voter-approval of a pension reform measure in San Jose. (PAUL SAKUMA / Associated Press)

The Sonoma Taxpayers and (San Jose Mayor Chuck) Reed are a good match because they both use right-wing ideology to spread lies about working people ... “

— Lisa Maldonado, executive director of North Bay Labor Council (“San Jose mayor pitches pension changes,” Friday)

It’s hard to know for which group of working people Maldonado is speaking. Is it for those former county and city employees who had the misfortune of retiring before the era of enhanced benefits and now find themselves not only receiving pensions that pale in comparison to those of their successors but ensnared in a public debate that, if calmer minds don’t prevail, could result in their modest pensions being cut, as may happen in Detroit?

Or does she speak for those “second-tier” and “third-tier” employees now being hired who find themselves in line to receive retirement packages that are far diminished from those who came before them and do similar work?

We don’t know. But our guess is she’s not even speaking for most first-tier employees who had the fortune of being hired before 2013 but did not retire before that pivotal 2001-03 time period and therefore, in most cases, stand to receive benefit packages that — through no fault of their own and despite recent reforms and adjustments through collective bargaining — still threaten the long-term financial stability of Sonoma County government.

Nobody benefits if retirement costs and liabilities continue to grow. And trusting that the stock market will somehow resolve it all is how we got into this fix in the first place.

This is what San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed came to Sonoma County to discuss last week. And, despite those who contend otherwise, he wasn’t spreading lies. The only thing to fear is ignoring what he has to say.

The fact is, despite a rebounding economy, a surging stock market and robust debate about public employee retirements, the gains in recent years on the pension issue have been modest. And the problem is not fixed.

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